Every year, hundreds of young athletes across the country are the victims of sudden cardiac arrest.
It was just this past February that Big Spring High School (Newville, Pennsylvania) basketball player J.T. Kuhn died suddenly from a massive heart attack.
A new bill aims to give student-athletes and their families more information to prevent future tragedies, and organizations and lawmakers will be rallying in support of it next week.
This past summer, state Sen. Mike Regan, a Republican representing parts of York and Cumberland counties, introduced Senate Bill 836, also known as Peyton’s Law after former Camp Hill student Peyton Walker. The bill would amend a 2012 law that requires families of student-athletes to sign a form about the warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest.
The changes coming from the new bill would be requirements related to electrocardiogram testing. Namely, the Department of Education would be required to post on its website information about EKG tests and give students the option to request the “administration of an electrocardiogram, in addition to the comprehensive initial preparticipation physical examination.”
Next Monday, Sen. Regan will hold a news conference in support of the bill in Harrisburg with members of the Peyton Walker Foundation and the Texas-based Cody Stephens Foundation. Former Penn State football player Adam Brenneman, who previously served as campaign manager for Regan, will also be in attendance.
Julie Walker started the Peyton Walker Foundation after her daughter, Peyton, died from sudden cardiac arrest during her sophomore year at King’s College in 2013. The foundation works closely with PIAA District 3 and holds heart screenings throughout central Pennsylvania.
“(This bill) is a vital step in our journey to save more young lives,” Julie Walker said in a statement. “We know that information is power and if parents and guardians are alerted to the fact that baseline heart screenings can detect their child’s potential risks for SCA, we believe schools should be required to present that life-saving information to families.”
According to the Peyton Walker Foundation, SCA is the the No. 1 killer of student athletes in the United States and the No. 2 medical cause of death in people under 25. Parent Heart Watch, a national nonprofit that works to protect youth from SCA, has reported that 1 in 300 student-athletes have undetected heart symptoms.
EKG tests are the best way to detect undiagnosed heart conditions. But while advocates have pushed for mandatory EKG testing in high school athletics, medical professionals believe it’s not that simple.